The electronics industry has been on a never-ending quest to put more processing power into smaller form factors, and IoT sensors are the latest iteration on that theme. These minute, powerful devices are changing markets by providing companies with new insights into how a wide and growing range of functions perform – like asset monitoring, maintenance, and workflow automation.
The smartphone – that fits into a shirt pocket – has more processing power than the computer systems that powered the Apollo mission to the moon, which illustrates how technology has advanced throughout the years, changing our world. IoT solutions bridge the digital world and physical worlds by generating, collecting, and transmitting information that can be used for analysis, notification, and automation, leading to dramatic business improvements.
Whilst companies traditionally compete in areas like price and features, the ability to collect, consolidate, correlate, analyse, and most importantly act upon information is what drives success or failure today. As evidence, the sum of the world’s data will increase from 33 zettabytes (1ZB equals 1 trillion gigabytes) in 2018 to 175ZB by 2025, a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 61%, according to International Data Corp.
Consequently, the Internet of Things’ impact is evident across multiple industries including aviation, construction, medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, shipping, and mining. So, let’s take a closer look at what IoT devices are, how they work, and their impact on various markets.
How do IoT Sensors work?
IoT sensors are small pieces of hardware. They can be embedded or attached to a wide and growing array of objects, designed to track changes and generate, collect, send, and receive data. They usually transmit data through a connection to an IP network. Data is loaded into special purpose applications that facilitate analysis, provide business insight, and ultimately generate actionable outcomes.
The Different Types of IoT Sensors
Sensors track a wide and growing range of variables, like motion, temperature, pressure, and cycle time. They can monitor environmental, physical and mechanical changes for example equipment location on a work site or providing environmental data to a farmer. Potential use cases are wide, varied, growing, and limited only by the designer’s imagination.
At the end of 2021, there were 11.3 billion active IoT devices, a figure which will grow to 29.4 billion in 2030, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%. In 2021, these devices generated $213 billion, a figure projected to rise to $621 billion in 2030. Following are examples of how sensors are impacting a handful of markets:
Farming has been a challenging business for many reasons. The performance and yield are dependent on events beyond the farmer’s control, like the weather and soil growing conditions. Traditionally, work has been manually intensive and often inefficient. In addition, farmers often find themselves hamstrung by high computer infrastructure costs and deployment complexity. Another major hurdle in rural areas can be a lack of connectivity. They also need to track equipment movement, both indoors and outdoors.
Deploying IoT has many benefits:
- Soil management
- Crop monitoring
- Analysing temperature and humidity
- Track equipment, machinery, and food
- Monitor livestock
- Automate processes
Construction companies have many assets (materials, trucks, heavy equipment, ladders, hammers, etc.) that move from place to place and need to be tracked. As the pandemic hit and affected most industries, it hit the construction industry exceptionally hard. The highly competitive, volatile, price-conscious sector faced material shortages, high demand, and labour challenges. Therefore, pressure increased on these companies to improve visibility, efficiency, and productivity.
IoT combines Digital Twin and sensor technology and creates a complete view of the organisation’s operations. The change helped:
- Improves asset tracking
- Reduces waste
- Enhances maintenance
- Boosts equipment utilisation
Traditionally, manufacturers tracked the whereabouts and the performances of their equipment and goods in spreadsheets, sheets of paper, or sometimes even with sticky notes. As a result, managers and plant personnel lacked visibility into what was happening in the supply chain or on the production floor managing reactively rather than proactively.
The use of sensor data closes that gap and improves:
- Equipment monitoring
- Device maintenance
- Equipment utilisation
- Production flow
- Location of assets
- Tracking inventory status
The marine industry focuses on waterborne commerce, i.e., moving people and goods. The need for crew safety, monitoring for preventative maintenance and accurately locating assets is critical. Improved connectivity between ship to shore and the use of narrowband technologies have driven efficiencies and improved operational effectiveness through process automation.
A wave of new IoT solutions support:
- Regulatory compliance
- Equipment monitoring
- Improved maintenance
- Supply chain improvements
Health care companies spend a lot of money on specialised equipment for patient treatment: The medical devices industry generated $417.41 billion of revenue in 2018 and is expected to reach $623.50 billion in 2026, growing at a CAGR of 5.16% from 2019 to 2026. Historically, these companies have had trouble tracking equipment and personnel due to patient conditions, technology, and best practices change rapidly.
New IoT-based solutions offer help and:
- Enhance patient care
- Ensure health and safety compliance
- Track equipment whereabouts
- Improve device maintenance
- Streamline maintenance
Mining is a large and well-established market: revenue was $1,845.55 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $2,427.85 billion in 2025, a CAGR of 7.1%. Yet, its legacy equipment, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, do not easily support digital functionality. Unreliable network connections, especially in underground conditions, remain an ongoing problem.
These companies need IoT sensors and network equipment that works indoors and outdoors to better:
- Track assets
- Monitor potential environmental problems, like dangerous gases
- Optimise waste management
- Proactively service equipment
- Maximise equipment utilisation
- Automate workflows
IoT is a rapidly emerging technology with the potential to help established companies close gaps in their business processes. The market is new but emerging at a rapid pace. Corporations need to evaluate the technology, or competitors embracing it will seize their market position. Find out more about IoT sensors and how they are used in different markets here.
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